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June 21, 2012
Is the Old Testament at all authoritative for the New Testament era? Should the New Testament believer even attach much value to the Old Testament? And if so, in what ways and areas is the Old Testament (OT) to be applied as either authoritative or valuable for the New Testament (NT) Christian?
Beginning with the Jerusalem Council some twenty years after the inception of the Church, history has witnessed an unending struggle with the relativity of the OT to the NT believer. It is instructive to note that, in the Church’s first major confrontation with this issue, the Jerusalem Council resolved that the OT is authoritative for the NT non-Jewish believer in its moral and ethical principles, but not in its ritualistic precepts. (Acts.15:1-29) Nevertheless, Christians who have wrestled with the problem through the years have come to a variety of conclusions.
Unfortunately, a common view tends to be one of disparagement, or at least neglect, of the OT. Many Christians treat the OT as little more than a prophetic handbook fulfilled by Christ with a devotional appendix (Psalms and Proverbs), and they do not utilize it to its full, God-intended potential. Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser pointedly observes that it is difficult to think of very many areas of Christian theology that are not affected in a major way, either by the inclusion or the deliberate omission of the OT data from its systematization. Moreover, when it is recalled that over three fourths of the total Bible is found in the OT, it is enough to give one pause before cavalierly bypassing the most extensive record of God’s revelation to mankind.